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Prostate Cancer Diet: Foods to Eat When You Have Prostate Cancer

The high fiber content of whole wheat pasta makes it a good choice for a prostate cancer diet.

Credit: Anna_Shepulova / iStock / GettyImages

Learning that you have prostate cancer can be a scary experience. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and a little helpless when faced with a cancer diagnosis. But your diet is one thing that you can control.

There isn’t a single prostate cancer diet, but you can adjust your diet to help you manage the disease.

Why diet is important in prostate cancer

While no food can cure prostate cancer, a healthy diet is one of your most important allies in order to live well with the disease.

That’s because eating nutrient-dense foods can increase your energy levels, lower your risk of infection, and help you deal with treatment side effects, according to the American Cancer Society.

A plant-based diet may be your best bet because of its potential to lower prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels, according to a review published in Cancer Therapy & Oncology in July 2018. PSA is a protein made by the prostate, and high levels have been linked to prostate cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Whitney Christie, an oncology nutritionist in Fredericksburg, Virginia, recommends following the New American Plate guidelines developed by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

“This method focuses on getting two-thirds (or more) of your plate filled with plant-based options like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or beans,” she says. “The other third (or less) of your plate should be animal protein.”

With that in mind, here are a few foods to add to your diet, along with some that you should limit or avoid.

3 healthy foods to eat after being diagnosed with prostate cancer

Woman's hands cutting tomato at the kitchen counter

Tomatoes are high in antioxidants and lycopene and are also a good source of fiber.

Credit: Guido Cavallini / Culture / GettyImages

1. Foods high in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables

Antioxidants are a large group of molecules that help neutralize the free radicals that can overwhelm the body in cancer.

Some antioxidants have household names, such as vitamins C, E, and A, but there are many more that cannot be bottled and sold as dietary supplements.

When looking for foods that are high in antioxidants look no further than the products section. Bright, colorful vegetables and fruits are great sources.

“I encourage all of my patients to eat fruits and vegetables,” says Christie, “with the goal of eating at least five servings of every color of the rainbow every day.”

2. Foods that are high in lycopene, such as canned tomatoes

This may seem strange as processed foods are typically not a healthy diet recommendation. But one of the nutrients that have been studied in cancer prevention and treatment is lycopene. Higher dietary lycopene levels are linked to lower cancer risk and may also inhibit tumor growth in patients with prostate cancer, according to a February 2014 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The lycopene in cooked tomatoes is better absorbed by the body, and since canned tomatoes are essentially cooked, this is how you get more lycopene, according to the Tomato Wellness Council.

You can also get lycopene by eating pink grapefruit and watermelon. And if raw tomatoes are more your style, of course, eat those too.

3. High fiber foods like oatmeal and quinoa

High fiber foods, and especially high fiber cereals, are good choices. A November 2012 study of prostate cancer found that the high amount of fiber in grains may protect against aggressive prostate cancer.

Fiber of all kinds also help enrich the intestines by feeding and diversifying your good bacteria. Maintaining your gut microbiome could keep your immune system in tip-top shape and also help reduce inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to cancer growth, according to an August 2020 article in Gut.

eat

Grams of fiber

Whole wheat spaghetti (1 cup)

6th

Pearl barley (1 cup)

6th

Bran flakes (3/4 cup)

5.5

Quinoa (1 cup)

5

Instant oatmeal (1 cup)

5

Air popped popcorn (3 cups)

3.5

Brown rice (1 cup)

3.5

Whole grain bread (1 slice)

2

Source: Mayo Clinic. (2018). “Table of high fiber foods”

4 foods to limit or avoid in prostate cancer

Close up of a fast food cheeseburger with bacon

Avoid fast food and limit the amount of red and processed meat you eat.

Credit: Claudio Alexandre Cologni / 500px / GettyImages

In general, the first thing you want to do is make sure that you follow food safety regulations as you don’t want to deal with a foodborne disease in addition to cancer. This is especially important if your cancer is at an advanced stage or you are undergoing more aggressive treatments, as these can weaken your immune system and make you more prone to these diseases.

Always cook your meat to the right temperature and avoid raw meat and fish.

Additionally, you should always wash your fruits and vegetables and stay away from the buffet line, according to the American Cancer Society.

Red meat is the food most commonly associated with prostate cancer, according to the July 2018 Review of Cancer Therapy and Oncology. In fact, the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) recommends keeping red meat to a minimum in your diet, according to studies linked it to an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer.

Red meat includes beef, veal, lamb, mutton, and pork.

“Red meat should be eaten in moderation – no more than 18 ounces a week,” says Christie. That breaks down into six 3-ounce servings, each about the size of a deck of cards.

Avoid charred meat in particular, as it has been shown to have cancer-promoting properties, according to the PCF.

Better protein-rich alternatives include fish, lean poultry (think skinless chicken breasts), and plant-based options like nuts and beans, according to the PCF.

High fiber foods are your best choices as mentioned above. When you eat low-fiber foods like white bread and pasta, white rice, snacks, and desserts, you are displacing the place in your diet for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

4. Highly processed foods and beverages

“In terms of cancer prevention and survival, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommendations suggest limiting consumption of fast foods or other foods high in fat, starch, or sugar,” Christie says.

She also recommends her patients limit sugar-sweetened drinks (like soda) and processed meats, including bacon, sausage, hot dogs, lunch meats, and ham.

Should you be taking a vitamin or dietary supplement?

According to the PCF, it’s best to get your vitamins from food sources rather than supplements that recommend a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Where to find help with your diet

If you haven’t already, ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist. Many cancer treatment facilities have an oncological nutrition specialist to assist you with your cancer nutrition needs.

Christie emphasizes the need for individualized nutrition. “Depending on where the person with prostate cancer is and the side effects they may have from their treatment, sometimes adjustments to food or your daily diet may be necessary to ensure optimal nutrition.”

A meeting with an oncology nutritionist can discuss allergies, drug interactions, and the best diet for your cancer treatment plan.

Some people have success with certain types of diets, such as the macrobiotic diet, which is essentially a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – but has also been known to limit important nutrients as well. When considering dieting, it is important to speak with a nutritionist to make sure that you are meeting your individual nutritional needs.

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